Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Raw sewage found in Black Warrior River


The city of Northport’s lift station malfunctioned on Wednesday, Sept. 14, dumping between 10,000 and 100,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Black Warrior River. 

The malfunction happened at the pump station on 5th Street and Lurleen Wallace Boulevard, just over the Hugh Thomas Bridge where downtown Northport connects to Tuscaloosa. 

The pump station services around 5,000 customers in the Northport area. 

Citizens in Northport are outraged.  On the city’s Facebook page, Derek Nicholas Snow wrote, “Appears our dated sewer system needs to move to highest priority.  Our citizens will not tolerate these occurrences any longer, nor can growth occur if the situation is not addressed immediately. Please take action City of Northport.”

The dumping of raw sewage into the Black Warrior River is partially the result of cloth material clogging up the lines, and the failure of an alarm to alert the proper personnel, Black Warrior River Riverkeeper Nathan Brooke said. 

When the lift station malfunctioned, an alarm should have gone off to alert the utility department of the issue before spillage was able to occur.  However, when the pump malfunctioned and tripped the breaker, it short-circuited the system and the alarm did not alert the department. 

In response to the failure of the alarm system, the utility department added a second float to the system so that if for some reason the breaker tripped again, a second float would pop up, keeping the alarm functional. 

The utility department has been working diligently to ensure that this does not happen again. 

“We contracted with a contractor to bring in two diesel-driven bypass pumps that have floats to start them automatically,” said James McKinney, assistant utilities director. “If the water gets to a certain depth, the pumps will come on and run, and this will guarantee that there is not another Sanitary Sewer Overflow.”  

The utility department manned the station 24 hours a day for the first two days after the incident to ensure nothing went wring while they were still handling the cleanup.

Over the weekend officials conducted extensive checks on the station in an effort to be overly cautious, McKinney said. 

 “We are making every effort to keep this from happening, but it is a mechanical system, and just like any mechanical system, there are possibilities of things going wrong,” McKinney said. 

As of Tuesday, the samples still did not yield good results for all sampled areas of the river. Signs will continue to be posted in the area, discouraging patrons from recreating on the river, until at least the next set of samples is run, which the city is expecting to have the results on Thursday. 

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